Saturday, April 19, 2014

Does Restless Legs Syndrome Really Shorten Life Span?

It may surprise you, but restless legs syndrome (RLS) affects 7% to 10% of the U.S. population, with varying degrees of severity. In the most extreme cases of this neurological disorder, patients have the urge to move their legs in response to severe discomfort or pain, which often interferes with sleep and can also impact other daily activities.

Now, according to a recent article published in the journal Neurology, RLS may also increase the risk of death in men. The study, led by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, tracked 18,425 American men over an eight-year time span and found that patients with RLS had a 39% increased risk of death.

In many ways, these results raised more questions than they answered. The patients enrolled in the study were screened for conditions that could already predispose them to a higher risk of death, such as diabetes and kidney failure, but RLS was not actually determined as the cause of death. Instead, researchers just discovered a statistical link between men with the disorder and a higher risk of mortality that will need to be explored further with rigorous clinical studies.

Treatments for RLS
While a better understanding of RLS and its long-term impact on health are needed, there are FDA-approved drugs available to treat the symptoms of this disorder. GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK  ) brought a RLS drug, Requip, to market eight years ago, and the drug was also approved for Parkinson's disease. Total sales of the medication have been falling in recent years due to generic competition and reached only 164 million pounds ($257.5 million) in 2012. Until recently, GSK also had a second RLS drug called Horizant in collaboration with biotech company XenoPort (NASDAQ: XNPT  ) . GSK recently handed the rights to the drug back to XenoPort after sales failed to meet its expectations, and the biotech is now commercializing the drug alone.

RLS hasn't been a high-priority target for the pharma industry given the lackluster sales of Requip and Horizant, a third competitor of UCB's Neupro, and a number of generic alternatives. Impax Laboratories (NASDAQ: IPXL  ) was one of the few developing a new therapy, called IPX159, but Impax put the kibosh on the drug after it failed to meet its primary endpoint in a phase 2b study. According to its latest quarterly report, Impax has no other RLS drugs in development and seems to be focusing on getting its rejected Parkinson's disease drug Rytary back to the FDA for a second chance at approval.

So, will the results of this study cause widespread panic over the long-term health implications of RLS? And from an investing point of view, will there be a dramatic spike in RLS drug sales? The answer to both questions, in my opinion, is no. The Neurology article has shone the spotlight on a poorly understood disease, but clinicians still need to run more trials and gather evidence before a causal relationship between RLS and mortality is established. Academic interest in RLS research should pick up in the coming years, but I think near-term drug sales in this space will be static.

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H&R Block Q4 Net Rises, but Misses Estimates

H&R Block (NYSE: HRB  ) results for fiscal Q4 and 2013 that were released this week show that for the quarter, revenue was just over $2.20 billion, up from the $2.00 billion in the same period the previous year. Net income also saw a rise, advancing to $664 million ($2.42 per diluted share) from Q4 2012's $586 million ($1.99).

The improved results are in spite of what the firm characterized as "unprecedented changes" in the latest tax season. These include delays in the seasonal launch of the IRS' online tax filing system, and heightened fraud controls that affected numerous forms. The company estimates there was a slight drop in total filings compared to the previous tax season, but says it "maintained its share of total U.S. returns."

The Q4 numbers weren't good enough to beat analyst expectations. On average, prognostications were for a top line of $2.28 billion and EPS of $2.61.

For the full year, the top line was $2.91 billion, which edged out the 2012 figure of $2.89 billion. Net profit was significantly higher, landing at $434 million ($1.58 per diluted share) for the year against 2012's $266 million ($0.89).

H&R Block also reiterated that it will pay a $0.20-per-share quarterly dividend on July 1 to shareholders of record as of June 17. That payout annualizes to $0.80, yielding 2.8% at the firm's current share price of $28.95.

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The company also said that during fiscal 2013, it repurchased and retired 21.3 million shares at an aggregate price of $315.0 million, or $14.82 per share, representing about an 8% reduction in shares outstanding.


Here's How j2 Global Is Making You So Much Cash

Although business headlines still tout earnings numbers, many investors have moved past net earnings as a measure of a company's economic output. That's because earnings are very often less trustworthy than cash flow, since earnings are more open to manipulation based on dubious judgment calls.

Earnings' unreliability is one of the reasons Foolish investors often flip straight past the income statement to check the cash flow statement. In general, by taking a close look at the cash moving in and out of the business, you can better understand whether the last batch of earnings brought money into the company, or merely disguised a cash gusher with a pretty headline.

Calling all cash flows
When you are trying to buy the market's best stocks, it's worth checking up on your companies' free cash flow once a quarter or so, to see whether it bears any relationship to the net income in the headlines. That's what we do with this series. Today, we're checking in on j2 Global (Nasdaq: JCOM  ) , whose recent revenue and earnings are plotted below.

Source: S&P Capital IQ. Data is current as of last fully reported fiscal quarter. Dollar values in millions. FCF = free cash flow. FY = fiscal year. TTM = trailing 12 months.

Over the past 12 months, j2 Global generated $165.2 million cash while it booked net income of $116.0 million. That means it turned 41.5% of its revenue into FCF. That sounds pretty impressive.

All cash is not equal
Unfortunately, the cash flow statement isn't immune from nonsense, either. That's why it pays to take a close look at the components of cash flow from operations, to make sure that the cash flows are of high quality. What does that mean? To me, it means they need to be real and replicable in the upcoming quarters, rather than being offset by continual cash outflows that don't appear on the income statement (such as major capital expenditures).

Top 10 Retail Stocks To Buy Right Now

For instance, cash flow based on cash net income and adjustments for non-cash income-statement expenses (like depreciation) is generally favorable. An increase in cash flow based on stiffing your suppliers (by increasing accounts payable for the short term) or shortchanging Uncle Sam on taxes will come back to bite investors later. The same goes for decreasing accounts receivable; this is good to see, but it's ordinary in recessionary times, and you can only increase collections so much. Finally, adding stock-based compensation expense back to cash flows is questionable when a company hands out a lot of equity to employees and uses cash in later periods to buy back those shares.

So how does the cash flow at j2 Global look? Take a peek at the chart below, which flags questionable cash flow sources with a red bar.

Source: S&P Capital IQ. Data is current as of last fully reported fiscal quarter. Dollar values in millions. TTM = trailing 12 months.

When I say "questionable cash flow sources," I mean items such as changes in taxes payable, tax benefits from stock options, and asset sales, among others. That's not to say that companies booking these as sources of cash flow are weak, or are engaging in any sort of wrongdoing, or that everything that comes up questionable in my graph is automatically bad news. But whenever a company is getting more than, say, 10% of its cash from operations from these dubious sources, investors ought to make sure to refer to the filings and dig in.

With questionable cash flows amounting to only 9.8% of operating cash flow, j2 Global's cash flows look clean. Within the questionable cash flow figure plotted in the TTM period above, stock-based compensation and related tax benefits provided the biggest boost, at 4.8% of cash flow from operations. Overall, the biggest drag on FCF came from capital expenditures, which consumed 3.4% of cash from operations.

A Foolish final thought
Most investors don't keep tabs on their companies' cash flow. I think that's a mistake. If you take the time to read past the headlines and crack a filing now and then, you're in a much better position to spot potential trouble early. Better yet, you'll improve your odds of finding the underappreciated home-run stocks that provide the market's best returns.

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We can help you keep tabs on your companies with My Watchlist, our free, personalized stock tracking service.

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Coffee surges on renewed concern about crop

NEW YORK (AP) — The price of coffee surged on Thursday on renewed concerns about the outlook for Brazil's crop.

Coffee for July delivery jumped 15.25 cents, or 8.1%, to $2.04 per pound.

The price of coffee beans has risen about 85% this year on concerns that dry weather in Brazil will damage the harvest there. Brazil is the world's largest coffee producer, accounting for about a third of global production, according to the International Coffee Organization.

The catalyst for the move higher on Thursday was a crop inspection report from Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based coffee importer, Wolthers Douque. The report predicted that 35% of the coffee crop would be lost in the South Minas region of Brazil due to unfavorable weather.

Big price swings for coffee may become the norm in coming months, said Sterling Smith, a commodities analyst at Citigroup.

"We're going to be seeing this happen frequently until we get a better idea of how much damage was done to the crop," Smith said. Coffee in Brazil isn't harvested until June.

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MORE: Hey, caffeine addicts -- Unlimited coffee for $45

In other trading of agricultural products, wheat edged higher while corn and soybeans fell.

Wheat for July rose 3.8 cents, or 0.5%, to $6.99 a bushel. Corn for the same month fell 3 cents, or 0.6%, to $5 a bushel and soybeans fell 6.5 cents, or 0.4%, to $15.02 a bushel.

Metals were mixed. Gold, silver and platinum fell. Copper and palladium rose.

Gold for June fell $9.60, or 0.7%, to $1,293.90 an ounce. Silver for May dropped 3.8 cents, or 0.2%, to $19.60 an ounce. July platinum dropped $9.10, or 0.6%, to $1,428.70 an ounce.

Copper for May rose 2 cents, or 0.6%, to $3.05 a pound. Palladium for June climbed $4.80, or 0.6%, to $807.10 an ounce.

In energy trading, May crude rose 54 cents to $104.30 a barrel.

The price of natural gas ! surged after the Energy Department reported that U.S. storage levels rose less than analysts had expected. Natural gas for May delivery rose 21.1 cents, or 4.7%, to $4.74 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Wholesale gasoline rose 1 cent to close at $3.06 a gallon. Heating oil was little changed at $3 a gallon.

Hot Retail Stocks To Own For 2015

USA TODAY markets reporter Matt Krantz answers a different reader question every weekday. To submit a question, e-mail Matt at

Q: Do "activist shareholders" hurt more than they help?

A: It's been a busy year for activist shareholders. These investors buy stakes in companies and hope to use their bought clout to push for change.

Companies ranging from J.C. Penney to Apple and Microsoft have all been reportedly pushed by activists to make changes to their business models or the way they return cash to shareholders.

The pressure being applied can get so public that these activists often seem to have a bigger influence than they really do. And judging from the results at J.C. Penney, as the retailer continues to struggle, some might question if activists do more harm than good.

Hot Retail Stocks To Own For 2015: Puget Technologies Inc (PUGE)

PUGET TECHNOLOGIES, INC., incorporated on March 17, 2010, is a development-stage company. The Company is engaged in the distribution of luxury wool bedding sets produced in Germany. The Company�� product includes Lama Wool, Camel Wool, Cashmere Wool and Merino Wool.

The Company�� Lama Wool is consists of 50% Lama Wool hair, and 50% Merino wool hair. The Camel wool is consists of 50% Camel wool hair, and 50% Merino wool hair. The Cashmere wool is blended with Merino wool.

Advisors' Opinion:
  • [By Peter Graham]

    Small cap stocks Inscor, Inc (OTCMKTS: IOGA), Puget Technologies Inc (OTCBB: PUGE) and PTA Holdings Inc (OTCMKTS: PTAH) have all been getting some attention lately in various investment newsletters or investor alerts. However, two of these small caps have been the subject of paid promotions while the third is getting attention largely because its in the growing marijuana or cannabis business. With that in mind, are these stocks really all that hot or not? Here is a quick reality check:

Hot Retail Stocks To Own For 2015: Rite Aid Corp (RAD)

Rite Aid Corporation, incorporated in 1968, is a retail drugstore chain in the United States. As of March 3, 2012, the Company operated drugstores in 31 states across the country and in the District of Columbia. As of March 3, 2012, it operated 4,667 stores. In the Company�� stores, it sells prescription drugs and a range of other merchandise, which it calls front end products. During the fiscal year ended March 3, 2012 (fiscal 2012), prescription drug sales accounted for 68.1% of its total sales. The Company carries a range of front end products, which accounted for 31.9% of its total sales in fiscal 2012. Front end products include over-the-counter medications, health and beauty aids, personal care items, cosmetics, household items, beverages, convenience foods, greeting cards, seasonal merchandise and other everyday and convenience products, as well as photo processing. It offers a variety of products under its private brands, which contributed approximately 17% of its front end sales in the categories where private brand products were offered in fiscal 2012. As of March 3, 2012, the Company had opened over 2,100 GNC stores-within-Rite Aid-stores. During fiscal 2012, the Company sold two owned operating stores to independent third parties.

During fiscal 2012, its stores filled approximately 295 million prescriptions and served an average of 2.1 million customers per day. The overall average size of each store in its chain is approximately 12,600 square feet. As of March 3, 2012, 60% of its stores were freestanding; 51% of its stores included a drive-thru pharmacy; 24% included one-hour photo shops, and 46% included a GNC store-within-Rite Aid-store. The Company�� customers may also order prescription refills over the Internet through, or over the phone through its telephonic automated refill systems for pick up at a Rite Aid store. It has a strategic alliance with GNC, a retailer of vitamin and mineral supplements.

Advisors' Opinion:
  • [By Grace L. Williams]

    Shares of CVS have advanced 2.7% to $68.74 at 3:0 p.m., trailing Walgreen’s (WAG) 5.3% rise to $63.87 but besting Rite Aid’s (RAD) 1.5% gain to $5.72.

  • [By Jonas Elmerraji]

    2013 has been a phenomenal year for shareholders in Rite Aid (RAD). Shares of the retail pharmacy chain have rallied more than 278% since the first trading session of the year. But that's not all. The setup in shares points to higher highs in store for this drugstore in the near-term.

    That's because RAD is currently forming an ascending triangle pattern, a bullish price setup that's formed by a horizontal resistance level above shares at $5.50 and uptrending support to the downside. Basically, as Rite Aid bounces in between those two technically-important price levels, it's getting squeezed closer and closer to a breakout above that $5.50 level. When the breakout happens, it's time to become a buyer.

    The descending triangle pattern is the bearish opposite of an ascending triangle. It's formed by a downtrending resistance level above shares, and horizontal support to the downside. A breakdown below support, currently right below $5, is the signal that it's time to sell or short shares.

    In the last few months, that $5 mark has acted as a last bastion of buying pressure for SAND. But if shares suddenly can't catch a bid below that level, then we'll likely see much lower levels before all is said and done.

    Don't try to call a bottom on SAND. That's a good way to get positioned on the wrong side of a falling stock.

Best Long Term Stocks To Buy Right Now: Burberry Group PLC (BURBY)

Burberry Group plc (Burberry) is a holding company. The Company designs and sources luxury apparel and accessories, selling through a diversified network of retail (including digital), wholesale and licensing channels worldwide. The Company�� Retail/wholesale channel is engaged in the sale of luxury goods through Burberry mainline stores, concessions, outlets and digital commerce, as well as Burberry franchisees, prestige department stores globally and multi-brand specialty accounts. The Company�� retail channel includes approximately 206 mainline stores, 214 concessions within department stores, digital commerce and 49 outlets. The Company�� wholesale channel includes sales to department stores, multi-brand specialty accounts, Travel Retail and franchisees who operates approximately 65 Burberry stores. Advisors' Opinion:
  • [By Ben Levisohn]

    Rambourg’s favored luxury stocks include Burberry (BURBY), Richemont, Coach (COH)…and Tiffany, whose “higher-end repositioning, along with lower raw material prices, should continue to support the stock,” he says.

Hot Retail Stocks To Own For 2015: Advance Auto Parts Inc(AAP)

Advance Auto Parts, Inc., through its subsidiaries, operates as a retailer of automotive aftermarket parts, accessories, batteries, and maintenance items. It operates in two segments, Advance Auto Parts (AAP) and Autopart International (AI). The AAP segment operates stores, which primarily offer auto parts, including alternators, batteries, chassis parts, clutches, engines and engine parts, radiators, starters, transmissions, and water pumps; accessories comprising floor mats, mirrors, vent shades, MP3 and cell phone accessories, and seat and steering wheel covers; chemicals consisting of antifreeze, freon, fuel additives, and car washes and waxes; and oil and other automotive petroleum products. This segment also provides battery and wiper installation, battery charging, check engine light reading, electrical system testing, video clinics and project brochures, loaner tool programs, and oil and battery recycling services; and sells its products through online. The AI segm ent operates stores that offer replacement parts for domestic and imported cars, and light trucks to customers in northeast and mid-Atlantic regions, as well as to warehouse distributors and jobbers in North America. As of January 1, 2011, the company operated 3,369 AAP stores, including 3,343 stores located in the northeastern, southeastern, and Midwestern regions of the United States under the Advance Auto Parts and Advance Discount Auto Parts trade names; 26 stores situated in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands under the Advance Auto Parts and Western Auto trade names; and 194 stores under the Autopart International trade name in the United States. It serves do-it-yourself, do-it-for-me, or commercial customers. The company was founded in 1929 and is based in Roanoke, Virginia.

Advisors' Opinion:
  • [By John Udovich]

    Auto parts retailers like large cap O'Reilly Automotive Inc (NASDAQ: ORLY) and mid cap Advance Auto Parts, Inc (NYSE: AAP)�along with small cap auto parts stock Federal-Mogul Corp (NASDAQ: FDML) have been a bright spot on the economy as consumers try to stretch the lives of their automobiles or vehicles in the bad or uncertain economy. In fact, Investors Business Daily has recently noted that the�average age of cars on the road is about 11.5 years and that�� of course good news for auto parts retailers while�any uptick in sales or production of auto parts in general�will be good for companies like Federal-Mogul Corp. With that in mind, here�is a look at�how these three auto parts retailers or auto parts stocks are taking investors for a ride in a good way:

  • [By Ben Eisen]

    Given that outlook, he sees ten stocks in the consumer discretionary sector that qualify as bargains at the moment, including some of the very stocks that are expecting downbeat holiday results. They include: Advance Auto Parts Inc. (AAP) , AutoNation, Inc. (AN) , Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. (BBBY) , Carmax, Inc. (KMX) �, Nordstrom Inc. (JWN) �, PetsMart, Inc. (PETM) �, Ross Stores, Inc. (ROST) , Staples, Inc. (SPLS) �, Target Corp. (TGT) �, and Urban Outfitters, Inc. (URBN) .

  • [By Ben Levisohn]

    Autozone has dropped 0.3% to $413.22 �, while�Pep Boys (PBY) has gained 0.2% to $12.19 , Advanced Auto Parts�(AAP) has risen 0.3% to $80.35, and O’Reilly Automotive (ORLY) has advanced 0.3% to $124.42 .

  • [By Ben Levisohn]

    Investors really like Advance Auto Parts (AAP) deal to buy a chain of repair shops–so much so that a stock that finished yesterday in the low 80s is now trading in the mid-90s.

    Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

    Reuters has the details on the deal:

    Advance Auto Parts Inc will buy 1,418 outlets of the Carquest chain to boost its auto repair operations to complement its car parts business, sending its shares up as much as 20 percent to a record high.

    Advance Auto, which sells products such as batteries, air fresheners and engine parts, said it would buy General Parts International Inc for just over $2 billion, creating the largest North American retailer of auto parts.

    General Parts is the biggest operator of the Carquest chain, which runs auto repair shops and car parts stores. General Parts also owns Worldpac, the No.1 supplier of replacement parts for imported car and truck brands.

    Reuters notes that the finished product will be the largest supplier of auto parts by sales, just beating out Autozone (AZN).

    Credit Suisse analyst Simeon Gutman and team call the deal a “smart strategic acquisition.” They write:

    The acquisition would solve two important issues for AAP. First, it has struggled in the DIFM segment, primarily due to a weaker and less accessible distribution network. General Parts has one of the most established distribution networks in the country (~40 DCs vs. AAP’s 10) and long standing relationships with mechanics nationwide. More importantly, WORLDPAC (estimated $1 billion in sales) is the leader in foreign parts with AAP owning the number three player and we see synergies from AI flooding into WORLDPAC.

    A meaningfully positive aspect of the transaction is targeted annual cost savings of roughly $160 million within three years (~6.1% of acquired sales). This seems relatively consistent with previous DIY Auto deals. The deal is expected to be 20%+ accretive to FY 14 ca

Hot Retail Stocks To Own For 2015: Rex Trueform Clothing Company Ltd (RTO)

Rex Trueform Clothing Company Limited is a South Africa-based company engaged in the manufacturing and marketing of clothing. The Company operates under two segments: Retail segment, the Company, through its ownership of Queenspark Limited, which operates a nationwide chain of Queenspark and J CREW stores, has a interest in the retailing of men�� and women�� clothing and related accessories. Through Property segment, Rex Trueform and its subsidiary have a direct investment in a portfolio of properties located in and around Cape Town. These properties are held either for the purpose of operations or for investment purposes. As of June 30, 2012, the Company operated 55 stores. In September 2012, the Company launched its newest brand Cath.Nic, a new fashion label exclusive to Queenspark. During the fiscal year ended June 30, 2012, the Company opened three new stores. Advisors' Opinion:
  • [By Sofia Horta e Costa]

    Rentokil Initial Plc (RTO) rose the most in almost eight weeks after a report that private-equity investor Clayton Dubilier & Rice LLC is considering combining the company�� office-maintenance unit with that of Balfour Beatty Plc. Cobham Plc dropped 4.6 percent as a shareholder sold a 3.6 percent stake in the maker of defense and aerospace equipment.

Hot Retail Stocks To Own For 2015: Arch Therapeutics Inc (ARTH)

Arch Therapeutics, Inc. (Arch), formerly Almah, Inc., incorporated on September 16, 2009, operates as a life science company developing polymers containing peptides intended to form gel-like barriers over wounds to stop or control bleeding. Arch is a medical device company offering an approach to the rapid cessation of bleeding (hemostasis) and control of fluid leakage (sealant) during surgery and trauma care. Arch�� products are in preclinical development. The first product, AC5, is designed for hemostasis in minimally invasive (laparoscopic) and open surgical procedures.


AC5 is a synthetic peptide consisting of naturally occurring amino acids. When squirted or sprayed onto a wound, AC5 intercalates into the nooks and crannies of the connective tissue where it builds itself into a physical, mechanical structure. That structure provides a barrier to leaking substances, including blood and other bodily fluids, regardless of type of surgery or, based on early data, clotting ability.

Advisors' Opinion:
  • [By James E. Brumley]

    With each passing day, the opportunity Arch Therapeutics Inc. (OTCBB:ARTH) is presenting to investors gets a little bit clearer... as clear as AC5. What's AC5? It's a hemostasis agent. In other words, it stops post-surgical bleeding. It doesn't do the job quite like anything else out there, though, and that's a good thing for current and/or future ARTH shareholders.

Hot Retail Stocks To Own For 2015: Gale Pacific Ltd (GAP)

Gale Pacific Limited is an Australia-based company engaged in marketing, sales, manufacture and distribution of screening, shading and home improvement products to global markets.The Company operates in one business segment, being the branded shading, screening and home improvement products. The Company products are sold to consumer and industrial markets including the retail and home furnishing, architectural, construction, and agribusiness markets. The Company manufactures sources and markets advanced durable knitted and woven polymer fabrics and structures made from these fabrics. The Company's retail products are marketed under the Coolaroo brand. The Company's retail product lines include items such as shade fabrics, exterior window furnishings, gazebos, shade sails and a range of pet products. The Company sells its products in Australia, the Unites States, Europe, the Middle East, New Zealand and a number of other export markets. Advisors' Opinion:
  • [By Dimitra DeFotis]

    Some trends and percentages:

    Department store Thanksgiving online sales grew by 60% vs 2012, with mobile sales growing by 44% year over year. Perhaps a boost for clothing purveyors like Gap (GAP), whose shares are up 1% in morning trading : total online sales of apparel on Thanksgiving grew by about 41% vs. 2012, with mobile sales growing by close to 62.4% year over year. Shares of�Macy’s�(M) are flat this morning, while shares of women’s clothing seller Chico�� Fas�(CHS) are down 0.4%. Mobile represented nearly 26

Hot Retail Stocks To Own For 2015: Natural Grocers By Vitamin Cottage Inc (NGVC)

Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage, Inc., incorporated on April 9, 2012, is a specialty retailer of natural and organic groceries and dietary supplements. The Company operates within the natural products retail industry. The Company offers products and brands, including a selection of natural and organic food, dietary supplements, body care products, pet care products and books.

The Company offers its customers an average of approximately 18,000 store-keeping units (SKUs) of natural and organic products per store, including an average of approximately 7,000 SKU of dietary supplements. As of June 30, 2012, the Company operated 55 stores in 11 states, including Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Wyoming, as well as a bulk food repackaging facility and distribution center in Colorado. The size of its stores varies from 5,000 selling square feet to 14,500 selling square feet, and a new store averages 9,500 selling square feet.

Advisors' Opinion:
  • [By John Udovich]

    Small cap Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage (NYSE: NGVC) and mid cap Sprouts Farmers Market Inc (NASDAQ: SFM) are taking aim at natural and organic foods supermarket giant Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ: WFM), but do either of these stocks have what it takes to take on the the king of organic retailing? Whole Foods Market was founded in Austin way back in 1978 by a�twenty-five year old college dropout and a twenty-one year old�at a time when there were only a handful of natural or organic�supermarkets in the country. Today, Whole Foods Market�has 364 stores in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom���which are sometimes referred to as ��hole Wallet��r ��hole Paycheck��given how much it costs to shop there.

  • [By David Mamos]

    The Fresh Market Inc. (Nasdaq: TFM), Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage Inc. (NYSE: NGVC), and privately held Trader Joe's are others crowding into the field.

Hot Retail Stocks To Own For 2015: Penske Automotive Group Inc.(PAG)

Penske Automotive Group, Inc. operates as an automotive retailer. It sells new and used vehicles of approximately 40 vehicle brands; offers vehicle maintenance and repair services; and engages in the sale and placement of third-party finance and insurance products, third-party extended service contracts, and replacement and aftermarket automotive products. As of December 31, 2011, the company operated 320 retail automotive franchises, of which 166 franchises were located in the United States and 154 franchises are located outside of the United States primarily in the United Kingdom. It also has operations in Puerto Rico and Germany. Penske Automotive Group, Inc. was founded in 1990 and is headquartered in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

Advisors' Opinion:
  • [By Richard Moroney]

    Penske Automotive (PAG) announced a 6.3% increase in its quarterly dividend on October 23, saying the move reflected its confidence in the ��trength of the auto retail marketplace.��

  • [By Seth Jayson]

    Calling all cash flows
    When you are trying to buy the market's best stocks, it's worth checking up on your companies' free cash flow once a quarter or so, to see whether it bears any relationship to the net income in the headlines. That's what we do with this series. Today, we're checking in on Penske Automotive Group (NYSE: PAG  ) , whose recent revenue and earnings are plotted below.

  • [By Seth Jayson]

    Penske Automotive Group (NYSE: PAG  ) reported earnings on April 29. Here are the numbers you need to know.

    The 10-second takeaway
    For the quarter ended March 31 (Q1), Penske Automotive Group missed estimates on revenues and beat slightly on earnings per share.

2 Oversold Stocks Ready to Bounce Higher

DELAFIELD, Wis. (Stockpickr) -- At Stockpickr, we track daily portfolios of stocks that are the biggest percentage gainers and the biggest percentage losers.

>>5 Stocks Set to Soar on Bullish Earnings

Stocks that are making large moves like these are favorites among short-term traders because they can jump into these names and try to capture some of that massive volatility. Stocks that are making big-percentage moves either up or down are usually in play because their sector is becoming attractive or they have a major fundamental catalyst such as a recent earnings release. Sometimes stocks making big moves have been hit with an analyst upgrade or an analyst downgrade.

Regardless of the reason behind it, when a stock makes a large-percentage move, it is often just the start of a new major trend -- a trend that can lead to huge profits. If you time your trade correctly, combining technical indicators with fundamental trends, discipline and sound money management, you will be well on your way to investment success.

>>5 Rocket Stocks for a Tumbling Market

With that in mind, let's take a closer look at a several stocks under $10 that are making large moves to the upside.

Himax Technologies

Himax Technologies (HIMX) designs, develops and markets semiconductors for flat panel displays. This stock closed up 3.5% to $9.32 a share in Tuesday's trading session.

Tuesday's Range: $8.61-$9.37

52-Week Range: $4.76-$16.15

Tuesday's Volume: 12.97 million

Three-Month Average Volume: 7.79 million

From a technical perspective, HIMX trended higher here right above some longer-term support at $8.13 with strong upside volume. This stock has been downtrending badly for the last month, with shares moving lower from its high of $16.08 to its intraday low of $8.61. During that downtrend, shares of HIMX have been consistently making lower highs and lower lows, which is bearish technical price action. That downtrend has now pushed shares of HIMX into oversold territory, since its current relative strength index reading is 28.53. Oversold can always get more oversold, but since HIMX trended up on Tuesday with strong volume, this stock how has a good chance to bounce higher.

Traders should now look for long-biased trades in HIMX as long as it's trending above Tuesday's low of $8.61 and then once it sustains a move or close above Tuesday's high of $9.37 with volume that hits near or above 7.79 million shares. If that move gets underway soon, then HIMX could easily bounce sharply higher back towards its 200-day moving average of $10.50 to $11.50.


BlackBerry (BBRY) provides wireless communications solutions worldwide. This stock closed up 0.98% to $7.21 in Tuesday's trading session.

Tuesday's Range: $7.05-$7.28

52-Week Range: $5.44-$16.59

Tuesday's Volume: 10.59 million

Three-Month Average Volume: 24.19 million

From a technical perspective, BBRY bounced modestly higher here right above some near-term support at $7.01 with lighter-than-average volume. This stock recently formed a longer-term double bottom chart pattern $6.98 to $7.01. Following that bottom, shares of BBRY have started to uptick a bit higher off oversold levels, since its current relative strength index reading is 26.07. Oversold can always get more oversold, but it's also an area where a stock can make a sharp bounce higher from.

Traders should now look for long-biased trades in BBRY as long as it's trending above those double bottom support levels and then once it sustains a move or close above Tuesday's high of $7.28 with volume that hits near or above 24.19 million shares. If that move gets started soon, then BBRY will set up to re-test or possibly take out its next major overhead resistance levels at $8 to its 200-day moving average of $8.65 or its 50-day moving average of $9.16.

To see more stocks that are making notable moves higher, check out the Stocks Under $10 Moving Higher portfolio on Stockpickr.

-- Written by Roberto Pedone in Delafield, Wis.


>>3 Big Stocks on Traders' Radars

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Follow Stockpickr on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

At the time of publication, author had no positions in stocks mentioned.

Roberto Pedone, based out of Delafield, Wis., is an independent trader who focuses on technical analysis for small- and large-cap stocks, options, futures, commodities and currencies. Roberto studied international business at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, and he spent a year overseas studying business in Lubeck, Germany. His work has appeared on financial outlets including and

You can follow Pedone on Twitter at or @zerosum24.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Is Ross Stores No Longer a Buy?

Most US retailers didn't post a strong holiday quarter as severe weather conditions kept hurting their sales, and this included Ross Stores  (NASDAQ: ROST  ) . Does this mean that Ross is no longer a buy? Let's find out what the future holds for the company and explore where it stands in relation to peers Kohl's (NYSE: KSS  ) and Gap (NYSE: GPS  ) .

Fourth-quarter results
In the fourth quarter, Ross earned $1.02 per share compared to last year's earnings per share of $1.07. Revenue was also down by 0.7% year over year to $2.74 billion. Analysts had estimated per-share earnings of $1.01 on revenue of $2.75 billion. Comparable-store sales grew 2% due to an increase in the size of the average transaction. The operating margin fell 12.7% in the quarter, down 95 basis points from the prior year's period.

The company noted that despite a very competitive holiday season, it enjoyed a favorable customer response because of its compelling bargains on various brands. The junior segment of the company's business emerged as the top performer within the merchandise category, while Texas outshone all other regions.

For full-year 2013, Ross Stores' per-share earnings grew nearly 10% to $3.88, up from $3.53 in 2012. Revenue rose more than 5% to $10.2 billion, whereas identical-store sales increased by 3%. 

What is Ross up to?
Earlier, Ross said that it will open 95 stores this year: 75 Ross Dress for Less stores and 20 dd's Discounts stores. The retailer has already opened 30 Ross Dress for Less stores and 7 dd's Discount stores in 14 different states. At a time when many retailers are trying to cut their costs rather than expanding, Ross management's decision to open new outlets is a healthy sign for investors. Ross has also said that it has a long-term goal of operating around 2,000 stores.

Ross has always believed in rewarding its shareholders through share buybacks and growing dividends. In the fourth quarter, it repurchased 1.8 million shares worth $129 million, which brought the total stock-repurchase value during fiscal 2013 to $550 million. The company has a remaining share-repurchase authorization of $550 million. 

Moreover, Ross has once again raised its dividend, just like last year. The company increased its quarterly distribution by 18% to $0.20 per share; previously, it had raised the dividend by 21%.

During the last few days, Ross executives have sold quite a number of shares in the open market, which is a somewhat worrying sign for investors. On March 3, Ross CEO Michael Balmuth sold 150,673 shares at an average price of $71.04. Furthermore, CFO Michael J. Hartshorn sold 2,362 shares on the open market during the same month. Last week, the company's Executive Vice President Lisa R. Panattoni also sold 5,932 shares at an average price of $73.45. 

In the current quarter, Ross anticipates EPS of $1.11-$1.15 with 1% to 2% growth in comparable sales. For fiscal 2014, Ross Stores expects per-share earnings of $4.05 to $4.21; it's forecasting growth of 4% to 9%. The outlook, however, is quite conservative when compared to analysts' average estimate of $4.34.

Industry peers
Kohl's posted weak performance in the latest quarter, as earnings fell 12% to $1.56 per share. Revenue for the quarter dipped 3.8% to $6.1 billion, as the company had an additional week during last year's comparable quarter. Sales were also affected by decreased traffic and lower levels of clearance merchandise. 

In recent times, the company shifted its focus from national brands to a new range of exclusive-brand categories in order to lure more customers to its stores. However, the move failed to bring desired results for the company and prompted it to concentrate once again on its core national brands. 

Despite offering heavy discounts during the holiday season, Gap reported solid results in its most recent quarter. The retailer earned $0.68 per share for the quarter, surpassing Thomson Reuters' projections of $0.66 a share. In the last few quarters, Gap's "Reserve in Store" service has paid off really well. For this reason, the retailer is expanding the service to more cities in the US.

Moreover, China has proved to be a fruitful market for the company. Therefore, the retailer plans to open 30 new stores in China this year. Gap has tamped its earnings guidance for fiscal 2014 due to anticipated headwinds from foreign currencies.  

Final thoughts
Ross Stores posted average results in its latest quarterly report. Earnings beat estimates by a small margin, while revenue merely missed expectations. Ross continues to multiply its store count, which is a healthy sign for the company's growth prospects. Its share-repurchase program along with the latest dividend raise shows its intent to keep rewarding its shareholders. But, a somewhat worrying sign is the company's conservative outlook for this year.

Furthermore, its top executives, especially the CEO, have recently sold a good number of shares; this casts a shadow of doubt over the company's future. Considering all of this, I will remain neutral on Ross Stores at this point in time.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Detroit reaches deal with retired police and firefighters

detroit pensions

A deal reached Tuesday would take some of the sting out of proposed pension cuts for Detroit's retired police officers and firefighters.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) Detroit's emergency manager and retired police and firefighters hammered out a deal Tuesday that marks a big step forward in the city's efforts to exit bankruptcy.

If approved, the deal would significantly limit proposed cuts in pension benefits for the public safety retirees.

Bankruptcy mediators said the agreement with the Retired Detroit Police and Fire Fighters Association was the first the city had reached with any group representing its retirees.

The association has about 6,500 members and represents more than 80% of Detroit's retired public safety workers.

Under Tuesday's deal, retirees would suffer no cuts to their current pension benefits and would receive nearly half of their annual cost of living increases moving forward.

The city, which filed for bankruptcy last July, remains in talks with other retirees and workers as well as the city's two pension funds -- one for public safety workers and one for general city employees.

A person close to the negotiations, but not authorized to speak on the record, said talks were "close on a lot of fronts" but did not elaborate.

Kevyn Orr, the lawyer appointed to steer Detroit through bankruptcy, had proposed cutting police and fire pensions by up to 14% and eliminating annual cost of living increases. He proposed far deeper cuts of up to 34% for general city workers and retirees.

Orr has also proposed deep cuts in retiree health care benefits.

In fact, the biggest liability on Detroit's books is the cost of health care for current and future retirees and their families. The mediators said Tuesday a fund would be established for retiree health care costs but did provide details.

The news come as the city prepares to send out ballots to tens of thousands of creditors, including city workers and retirees who will be asked to vote in favor of cutting their pension benefits. While it may sound counter-intuitive, Orr has said a "no" vote would result in deeper pension cuts.

Arthur Versace, a 62-year-old retired fire captain who currently receives around $45,000 a year from his pension, said that he would "definitely" vote in favor of the deal.

"There is no way I'd say no," he said. "I think you'd be crazy not to take th! at."

Orr has repeatedly pressured labor groups to negotiate so the city can move forward from its historic bankruptcy proceedings, which have already racked up millions in legal and consulting fees, and return focus to providing essential city services.

Tuesday's deal will ultimately rely on funding provided by a "grand bargain" offered by private foundations and state officials who pledged more than $800 million toward retiree pensions. In return, Detroit would agree hold onto city-owned art housed at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Detroit tries to rise again   Detroit tries to rise again

Moving forward, the city's exit from bankruptcy will eventually rely on the final approval of bankruptcy judge Steven Rhodes.

Attorney Michael Sweet, an expert in municipal bankruptcy, said this is the most significant step Detroit has taken yet towards emerging from bankruptcy.

"This is a real feather in Kevyn Orr's cap. Having retirees go into court with him on a plan would send a very strong message to the court and other creditors," he said.

Sweet said this kind of agreement seemed unlikely not long ago given the positions being staked out by both Orr, the pension funds and the city's unions, but "pressure makes diamonds."

--CNN's Poppy Harlow contributed to this report. To top of page

Monday, April 14, 2014

Top 10 Information Technology Companies To Own In Right Now

Top 10 Information Technology Companies To Own In Right Now: Nortech Systems Incorporated(NSYS)

Nortech Systems Incorporated operates as a contract manufacturing company. It manufactures wire harness cable and printed circuit board assemblies, electronic sub-assemblies, higher level assemblies, and complete devices. The company also provides value added services and technical support, including design, testing, prototyping, and supply chain management; and repair services on circuit boards used in machines in the medical industry. In addition, it engages in the design, manufacture, and post-production service of electronic and electromechanical medical devices for diagnostic, analytical, and other life-science applications. Nortech Systems Incorporated serves various industries that include aerospace and defense; medical; and the industrial markets, which include industrial equipment, transportation, vision, agriculture, and oil and gas. The company markets its products through sales force and independent manufacturers? representatives. Nortech Systems Incorporated w as founded in 1981 and is headquartered in Wayzata, Minnesota.

Advisors' Opinion:
  • [By James E. Brumley]

    In a perfect world stocks would move in predictable, manageable ways. We don't live - nor do we trade in - a perfect world. In the real world we have to adapt to and deal with the curve balls the market throws us, and there are no two stocks that illustrate that point better than Document Security Systems, Inc. (NYSEMKT:DSS) and Nortech Systems Incorporated (NASDAQ:NSYS) to today. While both NSYS and DSS are up today, one's overbought and ripe for a pullback, while the other is likely at the beginning of a trade-worthy rally.

  • source from Top Stocks Blog:! -own-in-right-now.html

Morning Movers: Retail Sales, Citi Earnings Boost Stocks

After Friday's pain, stocks looked poised to regain some ground Monday, after a bullish retail sales report from the Commerce Department and positive earnings from Citi boosted futures.

Retail sales jumped 1.1% last month to a seasonally adjusted $433.9 billion, the biggest gain since September 2012, and 0.8% ahead of economists' expectations. February retail sales were revised upward to a 0.7% increase, from a 0.3% improvement.

Citigroup (C) was on the rise, as its first-quarter earnings report was better than expected, and the banking giant announced it was cutting as many as 300 jobs (about 2%) of its workforce.

Edward LifeSciences (EW) climbed as it won the latest round in its patent infringement case against Medtronic (MDT)—a Federal Court ordered preliminary injunction on U.S. Sales of Medtronic’s infringing heart valve, although the company plans to appeal.

J.M. Smucker (SJM) was gaining on news that it raised its share repurchase plan by 5 million shares.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Jefferies Initiates Coverage on Safeway at “Hold” (SWY)

On Monday, Jefferies announced that it has initiated coverage on Safeway Inc. (SWY).

The firm has started coverage on SWY with a “Hold” rating and $32 price target. This price target suggests a 1% upside from Monday’s closing price of $31.49.

Analyst Mark Wiltamuth noted: “In June/July, Safeway valuation was in a confused state with the core grocery business trading at only 4.0x EV/EBITDA after adjusting for the recent Canada sale and removing Blackhawk value/”

“With the arrival of an activist, valuation has now reached 5.1x. Marking to market, we believe Safeway needs to turn around declining EBITDA to move the stock from here. We’re not convinced the company’s three sales initiatives will do it.”

Best Shipping Stocks To Own Right Now

Safeway shares were mostly flat during pre-market trading Tuesday. The stock is up 74% YTD.

Six apps that might make parenting easier

Parents wear a lot of hats when it comes to their kids, including being the timekeeper, the money giver and the behavior police.

Do you have a child who is always up before everyone else? There's an app for that. How about keeping track of multiple allowances? Yes, an app can make it easy. Want reinforcements for wrangling kids at bedtime, teaching them potty training, explaining screen time restrictions and modeling good behavior? Storybook apps have you covered. Here's a list of clever apps that are designed to make your parenting job easier.

Sleepasaurus - Dinosaur Sleep Trainer for Kids

(Wee Taps, best for ages 2-6, $1.99, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad; 4 out of 4)

Does your toddler or preschooler frequently get up way before the crack of dawn? "Sleepasaurus" might be just want you need. Kids choose one from seven baby dinosaurs and then sprinkle magic sleeping dust over it just before bedtime. Once the dinosaur is asleep, it can't be awakened until a time set by the parents. The idea is that the dinosaur becomes your child's sleeping buddy. If your child wakes up too early, the app trains your early riser to go back to sleep until such time as the dinosaur is awake and can roar when touched. Parents also have the option of setting the app to play bedtime music for going to sleep as well as music to wake up your child. This is a clever app that doubles as a nightlight if plugged in; and it operates masterfully.

The Adventures of Ash & Ollie: ScreenTime - A Fingerprint Network App (also on Android)

(Fingerprint, best for ages 3-6, $2.99, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android; 4 out of 4)

Two little brothers, Ash and Ollie, really like playing on their tablets and video game players. But their parents have taught them the importance of balancing screen time with other forms of play. By having your kids read this story about how another family imposes rules around screen times, it just might make it easier for you to do the same.

Tico Timer - your fun timer f! or children!

(Ricardo Fonseca, best for ages 3-8, $.99, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad; 4 out of 4)

For children who can't yet tell time, this app presents the passage of time in a visual manner. The app has 11 different visuals, from colored circles slowly disappearing off the screen to a shrinking circle eventually vanishing. Parents can use the app to let kids know that they have ten more minutes until bedtime, 30 minutes of screen time left or two minutes for brushing of teeth. The easy-to-set timer screen can be accompanied by one of seven musical tracks.

Kiddie: positive parenting toddlers 2-5 years: reading, reward charts and fun songs

(Kiddie App, best for ages 2-5, Free, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad; 4 out of 4)

This free app presents an adorable story about a bear-like character named Kiddie who is getting ready for bed. Using funny made-up rhyming phrases such as "Wopsie Dopdie Deeth, Wash your hands and brush your teeth," this app draws kids into the process of getting Kiddie to bed. Your child will tap on Kiddie's blanket to draw it up and turn on Kiddie's iPad so that his parent can read him a bedtime story. The tale also contains a cute song. Most importantly, the story introduces Kiddie's Reward Chart for going to bed easily and then lets parents create one for your child too.

For $2.99 each, parents can buy additional interactive stories about Kiddie: learning to use a potty, exploring foods at dinner time and discovering how to be sweet. If you want to purchase all three, the cost is $5.99. Each delivers a strong message about proper behavior and lets you set up a reward chart for your child — just like Kiddie's. I would recommend buying all three since they are so well done.

Achieve It With Sesame Street (also on Android)

Top 5 Recreation Stocks To Watch Right Now

(Sesame Street, best for ages 3-5, Free, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android; 4 out of! 4)

Elmo monster presents a series of financially based challenges for you and your child to do, away from the device. For example, the challenge might be to sort coins, hand money to a cashier or checkout an ATM machine. For each challenge, Elmo asks that you take a photo during the challenge (or you can select one of the Sesame Street monsters instead). Completion is rewarded with a sticker or the unlocking of a special Sesame Street video about a financial topic. By playing through these challenges together with your child, you will have lots of opportunities to discuss the difference between what we want and what we need, that people work to earn money and that there are three parts to saving money: for spending, for sharing, and for long term savings.


(BancVue, Ltd, best for ages 5-14, Free, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad; 3.5 stars)

"PiggyBot" makes keeping track of your kid's allowance a piece of cake. It also introduces your child to the concept that saving should have three parts: spending, sharing with others, and saving. The app permits you set up profiles for multiple children and keeps all the record-keeping in one place. It also lets your kids set goals, so that they can see how to save for something they want.

Jinny Gudmundsen is the Editor of and author of iPad Apps for Kids, a For Dummies book. Contact her at Follow her @JinnyGudmundsen.